Guilt is a widely misunderstood emotion, having long suffered from an undeserved, bad reputation. The popular press abounds with articles offering advice on how to live a guilt-free life, many therapists identify guilt reduction as one of their short-term treatment goals, and no one wants to be regarded as a guiltinducing mother. But much of the stigma of guilt can be attributed to people's tendency to confuse guilt with shame. As it turns out, recent research suggests that, on balance, guilt is the more adaptive emotion, benefiting relationships in a variety of ways, without the many hidden costs of shame.

Guilt has been variously classified as one of the moral, self-conscious, social, and problematic emotions, underscoring the complexity of this affective experience and the many ...

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